Every player on the Chargers is facing some type of pressure.
Even the top players like Justin Herbert, who isn’t fighting for a roster spot or his starting job, are still under pressure as he is seen as the guy to lead the team to their first Lombardi Trophy.
However, a few players are under pressure to keep their starting job, live up to expectations, or try to keep a job and make the final regular-season roster.
That said, here are three players with the most to prove when training camp begins next month.
DT Jerry Tillery
Tillery, the former first-round pick, has failed to live up to his draft billing and is entering the final year of his contract, as the team did not pick up the fifth-year option. A starter last season, Tillery will now have to compete with the team’s offseason additions: Sebastian Joseph-Day, Austin Johnson, Morgan Fox, and rookie Otito Ogbonnia. Tillery’s best asset is rushing the passer, while he’s been a liability against the run. The Chargers kept five defensive linemen on their 53-man roster last season. Battling with the guys mentioned and Breiden Fehoko, Forrest Merrill, and Joe Gaziano, not only is Tillery’s playing time not guaranteed, his spot on the roster could be in jeopardy if he doesn’t perform to standards.
LB Kenneth Murray
Murray’s sophomore season wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Murray dealt with ankle issues since training camp last year, and that stunted his development. He spent six weeks on the injured reserve, and some time on the COVID-19/Reserve list. When on the field, Murray struggled with missed tackles, over-pursuing ball carriers, and struggling to shed blocks and work off contact. Murray ended up experiencing a new position as an edge defender late in the season when the team was limited with players at the spot, which was a challenge. Murray had ankle surgery in early April, and Staley said the hope is the former first-round pick will be ready for training camp. With the team likely to run more five-man fronts in nickel packages with only one linebacker on the field, Murray must prove that he’s capable of resorting back to starter status. Drue Tranquill, second-year players Nick Niemann and Ogbongbemiga and newest addition Troy Reeder will also be vying for that playing time.
OT Trey Pipkins
The starting offensive line is nearly complete after adding first-round pick, Zion Johnson. However, the right tackle position is still up in the air. It will be a battle between last year’s starter, Storm Norton and Pipkins, the fourth-year player. I have said it before, but I firmly believe that Pipkins has the leg up for the job. Pipkins played well in his only two starts in 2021, both in pass protection and run blocking, and has spent this offseason working with highly touted offensive line developer Duke Manyweather. Meanwhile, Norton had his fair share of struggles, allowing 60 pressures and nine sacks in 2021. Keeping Justin Herbert upright is imperative and Pipkins will have his work cut out for him in a division that now has new additions, Chandler Jones (Raiders) and Randy Gregory (Broncos), to go with Maxx Crosby and Bradley Chubb. At the same time, the Chiefs return Frank Clark and Chris Jones.